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Most legends contain a small grain of truth, but none is to be found in the fraudulent images being presented each day by the BBC (and the US networks). The print media is not much better. Official propaganda is constantly repeated in sentences such as: “On June 28 the United States and its coalition partners transferred sovereign control of Iraq to an interim government headed by prime minister Ayad Allawi. The transfer of sovereignty ended more than a year of American-led occupation”.
Meanwhile, US intelligence agencies admit that the size of the resistance increases every day. If Moqtada al-Sadr were to be captured or killed in the fighting taking place in Najaf, the steady trickle of recruits could become a flood. In such a situation and with no official opposition to the occupation in the Commons it should be the responsibility of the media to ensure that some truth, at least, is regularly reported.
The capitulation of the BBC has been in evidence ever since the Hutton whitewash. This is not just a question of journalists censoring themselves. Earlier this summer the new director-general Mark Thompson reportedly told a meeting of the corporation’s news board there was a “perception” that BBC news was too leftwing and critical of the government – a perception which needed to be corrected. He must be happy now.
The notion that Iraq today is a sovereign state governed by Iraqis is a grotesque fiction. Every Iraqi citizen, regardless of political views or religious affiliation, is aware of the actual status of the country. And if the BBC carries on in this fashion, its credibility, already at an all-time low, could disappear altogether. Condoleezza Rice, the US national security adviser, declared some months back: “We want to change the Iraqi mind.” But the US-funded Arab TV channel called Truth has proved a dismal failure. And now, to prevent any alternative images from reaching Iraqis and the rest of the world, a plucky puppet at the “ministry of information” has banned al-Jazeera TV from reporting out of Iraq – a traditional recipe from an oppressive cookbook.
The “handover”, designed largely to convince US citizens that they could now relax and re-elect Bush, was also an invitation to the western media to downgrade coverage of Iraq, which it dutifully did. As Paul Krugman noted in the New York Times last week: “Iraq stories moved to the inside pages of newspapers, and largely off TV screens. Many people got the impression that things had improved. Even journalists were taken in: newspaper stories asserted that the rate of US losses there fell after the hand-off. (Actual figures: 42 American soldiers died in June, and 54 in July).”
Like previous confections to justify the war, this one is not working either. Of the two Iraqis plucked from obscurity to be the front men for the occupation, “President” Yawar is a relatively harmless telecoms manager from Saudi Arabia. He was perfectly happy to don tribal gear for official functions and photo ops with Rumsfeld and the boys. “Prime minister” Allawi was at one time a low-grade intelligence employee for Saddam, reporting on dissident Iraqis in London. Subsequently, Anglo-American intelligence outfits recruited him. After the first Gulf war he was sent to destabilise the regime. His hirelings bombed a cinema and a bus carrying children.
Before the war Allawi helped manufacture the 45-minute WMD delivery systems warning for the dodgy dossier men in No 10. After the occupation he was rewarded and put on the “governing council”. He then hired a lobbying firm, which spent $370,000 campaigning in Washington for him to be made prime minister, and also got him a column in the Washington Post.
As “prime minister” he cultivates a thuggish image. On July 17 in a remarkable despatch from Baghdad, Paul McGeough, the Australian correspondent, (and former editor of the Sydney Morning Herald) alleged: “Iyad Allawi, the new prime minister of Iraq, pulled a pistol and executed as many as six suspected insurgents at a Baghdad police station, just days before Washington handed control of the country to his interim government, according to two people who allege they witnessed the killings.
“They say the prisoners – handcuffed and blindfolded – were lined up against a wall in a courtyard adjacent to the maximum-security cell block in which they were held at the al-Amariyah security centre … They say Dr Allawi told onlookers the victims had each killed as many as 50 Iraqis and they ‘deserved worse than death’.”
McGeough’s report continued: “The prime minister’s office has denied the entirety of the witness accounts in a written statement … saying Dr Allawi had never visited the centre and he did not carry a gun. But the informants told the Herald that Dr Allawi shot each young man in the head as about a dozen Iraqi policemen and four Americans from the prime minister’s personal security team watched in stunned silence.” McGeough appears regularly on TV and radio to defend his story, which does not go away.
The fact is that Iraq is in a much bigger mess today than before the war. The situation was summed up by a former inmate of Abu Ghraib prison: “We want electricity in our homes, not up the arse.”
The citizens of the aggressor states can see this for themselves and regardless of the media will, one must hope, punish their leaders for taking them to war – regardless of the fact that the alternatives on offer are so weak. In the US, Senator Kerry is an unconvincing politician. Unlike some of his liberal apologists, he does not like to portray the Democrats as the consistently less aggressive of the two parties. It was, after all, Democratic – not Republican – presidents who launched the wars in Korea and Vietnam. The Republican Eisenhower’s electoral appeal in 1952 was based on being the more peaceful of the two candidates. In 1960 Kennedy attacked the Republi cans for the “missile gap”, denouncing their weakness before the Soviet threat. Carter, not Reagan, launched the second cold war. And in 1992 Clinton was thundering against Bush senior’s weakness on Cuba and China. Now Bush junior has outpaced any Democratic rival in accelerated militarism. But it is enough to remember that on the eve of 9/11, Hillary Clinton and Joseph Lieberman organised a letter, signed by nearly every Democratic senator, denouncing Bush’s Middle East policies. They wanted more support for Israel.
It is necessary to bear this record in mind, as pressure has built up for the US left to fall into line behind Kerry. Many will, understandably enough, vote for him to get rid of a warmonger government. If they succeed, he must be put under immediate pressure to withdraw from Iraq. If there had been no resistance in Iraq, the triumphalism of warmongers would have drowned out oppositions of every hue. The defeat of the warmongers, if it happens, will be the outcome of what is happening in Baghdad and Basra, Falluja and Najaf. Even if they try and brush aside the 37,000 Iraqi civilians killed in this conflict, according to a recent estimate by an Iraq-based NGO, Bush and Blair will not forget the names of the cities whose people refuse to surrender. There is only one serious option: the unconditional withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq.